This past Sunday, NASCAR fans had their minds blown when Ross Chastain intentionally kept it pinned and rode the wall in the final corner of the final lap at Martinsville Speedway. The result was a fifth-place finish across the line after he entered the corner in 10th.
While it wasn’t for the win, it was to make NASCAR’s Championship 4. His immediate rivals Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott both had more points than him as they took the white flag.
After the corner, Chastain wound up finishing ahead of them, ultimately eliminating Hamlin from the Drivers’ title race and Elliott from the Owners’.
On the night of this incredible move, it made ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10 plays, ranking at number one. Some drivers took the opportunity after the race to discuss the move and its legality. They didn’t have an issue with the move at that moment, but some are seeking updated rules regarding the maneuver in future races.
The car that Chastain put in the wall on purpose wouldn’t have made it around another corner with the damages sustained. It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime event, and one of the biggest points about it is its ties to video game racing. Fernando Alonso even referenced it in a gaming context.
Often times the move is outlawed in the video game racing sphere, but in the real world, NASCAR officials said ‘why not?’
“IT WAS A VIDEO GAME MOVE”
In the aftermath of the wall ride, NBC Sports commentator Dale Earnhardt Jr excitedly called the move a “video game move”. In the post-race interview, Chastain credited his childhood video game expertise as well.
Citing NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup, a console racing game title by EA Sports that he played on the Nintendo Gamecube of all systems, Chastain said he and his brother Chad practiced the move on the fictional Dodge Raceway to win races against each other and computer opponents.
Of course, people have shared their appreciation for the golden days of NASCAR console gaming with much love posted regarding NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup on social media. Legions of fans have also been trying to replicate the move on their personal favorite video games too.
Steve Myers, Executive Vice President at iRacing, reminded iRacing members that the move is still in violation of the Sporting Code. Just ask eNASCAR driver Vicente Salas about that. He sat out the 2022 season finale for wall riding at Homestead-Miami two weeks earlier.
While my new copy of NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup is somewhere in the mail right now thanks to a recent splurge on eBay, I wondered what other games might work with what’s being called the “Hail Melon” in reference to Chastain’s days at a Floridian Watermelon farmer.
THE SIMULATIONS WERE RIGHT
In total, I ended up trying about a dozen different racing titles in my current collection. Surprisingly, the move does NOT work in all of them, only a couple are set up in a way where the wall is possibly the faster way to go.
Poor sportsmanship or not, the fact that ‘rim riding’ might be a go-to move for casual racing gamers trying to find any possible edge is sometimes an issue in certain games, and it takes some of the fun out of it when it’s done against you. It was incredible to see it work in the real-world though!
The obvious first title that I loaded up this week was iRacing and sure enough, it does work as an advantage if you know how to manage it through the corner. Chastain said he kept it floored and let go of the wheel through the corner, and while that method doesn’t really work in NASCAR’s official simulation software, it is a faster lane if you can modulate it right.
Often, the car wants to lift up the tires from the pavement, which essentially slows the car down.
By turning into the wall, there was both less smoke and more tire contact, which meant it didn’t spin off the corner immediately like the first seven times I tried it. Also, I managed to pick up two spots in that corner with a lap time that was a second faster. Motorsport.com’s Nick DeGroot also gave it a try and he was able to nearly match Chastain’s record-breaking lap time.
Another NASCAR title that worked really well with the video game move was NASCAR 21: Ignition. While the game itself isn’t the best of examples to go by, shipping a car into the corner at full song with the ability to shift up into fifth gear (something iRacing doesn’t do with its NEXT Gen) was satisfying.
Martinsville wasn’t the best example, but having played the game extensively, I’ve learned that Bristol Dirt has the best use of the “video game move” with the way that track handles in general.
On the dirt surface, the cars just don’t turn at all. Sending it like Chastain would gain multiple spots if the path was left open. To be fair though, the speed that Chastain was able to hold through the center of the corner, at Martinsville of all places, is completely unheard of.
Not even the games can match it exactly how he did it on Sunday.
NASCAR Heat 5 is going to receive the NEXT Gen update at some point later this year as well, so I figured I would give that a try after Ignition. Unfortunately, as NASCAR driver Chase Briscoe, one of the drivers eliminated by Chastain on Sunday, and I both found out about Heat 5, wall riding is not something that can be done at Martinsville due to the way the game reacts to sticking it on the wall for too long.
An actual anti-cheat system was enabled to prevent players from exploiting the wall ride maneuver. While it starts to work at the beginning of the corner, about halfway through, the car suddenly stops on a dime and gets flung towards the inside lane.
I thought that maybe Briscoe’s video was a fluke occurrence, but low and behold, it happens every single time. Sorry to the kids of today that may become future NASCAR stars of tomorrow, you won’t have a memory like Chastain did if you’re currently racing around on the Heat games.
Chastain commented that his prowess came from driving a game on a Nintendo console, so the Switch exclusive would make sense to give it a shot on as well. NASCAR Heat 5 is the basis for what became NASCAR Rivals this year, so I fired that up to see if it was any different. It wasn’t.
It wasn’t just NASCAR games that I dove into, however. Some of the more popular games of the past year or two, like Gran Turismo 7, Forza Horizon 5, Circuit Superstars and Hot Wheels Unleashed were also in my library, so I decided to fire them all up and check them out.
Hot Wheels was the outlier, where it was much slower to ride or bank off of the wall. For the other three, wall riding is definitely possible and a faster way in the right circumstances. Forza Horizon 5 was also mostly a detriment with how rough the terrain of Mexico can be.
There were some walls you could ride really well, but most of those came with slow-down penalties to offset it. With Gran Turismo 7, if the forfeits were turned on, it usually meant giving up more time than you initially earned. There isn’t too close of a Martinsville-esque track in any of those games, but it was worth it to try.
Of that quartet, Circuit Superstars has the closest track to a Martinsville, named Bullseye Speedway, and sure enough, riding the wall was a faster way around the track. To that, Original Fire Games decided to add in a wall assist penalty. Regular laps would be in the 15-second range while wall-riden laps would be 20 seconds after two sets of three-second penalties, one for each end of the speedway.
Also, I wanted to make a note that I also tried out Wreckfest on its set of oval racing tracks. The name of the game is to wreck, so with the damage model, more often than not, my entire right front or left front would be completely shorn from the suspension.
Not sure if that’s some type of anti-cheat or just the way the soft-bodied physics work, but either way, crashing people out of the way is more fun in that game anyway.
PEAK NOSTALGIA HOURS
The two console games for me that I remember playing most were Dirt to Daytona and NASCAR Thunder 2004. Luckily, I happen to still own both of those titles and could check to see how the ‘Ross Maneuver’ played out. NASCAR 2004 was only a year ahead of the one that Chastain played, so I imagine it still should work, right?
Well, it did, to a point, but it was really difficult to be successful without killing the engine or going up in flames. Plus, in order for it to work right, you had to turn off the assists to prevent your car slowing down automatically, a nearly impossible task to keep control of in that title on a controller.
If you could manage it, and keep from falling out of the race in the process, it worked pretty ok, although many times the AI would force its way into your path at Martinsville on that particular game.
With Dirt to Daytona, it was so much easier to pull off, and in fact, may be a bit of a memory restored from when I was 13.
I’ve never been a big short track racer, and it was like second nature giving the wall ride a go at Martinsville. I’d say it was on par, if not more effective than Ignition was. This maneuver surely worked at other tracks as well, which might be why I enjoyed it more than most console racers – if I couldn’t find a way to win the right way, the wrong way worked pretty well.
As console titles began to decline in playability, I kept the Papyrus titles close to my heart. I played NASCAR Racing 2003 Season for probably longer than I should have, just recently giving that up a few years ago in 2020.
NR2003 popped up a lot on social media of late and even saw people giving their own reenactments on the 2003 simulation. I’d be remiss if I didn’t give my personal favorite racing game a go with the Chastain rim ride.
I reinstalled NR2003 today for the first time since leaving it behind in 2020 to revisit the wall characteristics of some of their tracks, mostly Martinsville but also a few of my favorites that I thought could work out.
I can say that while wall riding is possible and works at some larger tracks like Darlington, Kansas, and even somewhat at New Hampshire, Martinsville’s corners are just too narrow. No matter what values I put into the track.ini, I couldn’t get it to shoot me around the corner Ross Chastain-style.
As it may be considered a “video game move” for the implications of something someone can do with no remorse on a computer, the way that #1 Camaro shot around the corner at Martinsville on Sunday was quite extraordinary, even in a video game setting.
Regardless, the move takes the Melon Man to his first Championship 4 appearance this Sunday at Phoenix Raceway where I’m sure he’ll have that move in his back pocket to utilize again if needed against his three competitors.